A lot technology comes from the marriage of private equity with startups or sponsorship by deep-pocketed automotive companies like Ford or Mercedes.
- The Center for Research and Technology at UC Riverside develops valuable technology that’s adopted by the transportation industry.
- Currently, students are working on a truck routing issue with the city of Riverside.
- Academia offers a valuable resource for companies to address mobility challenges.
With PR teams and hotshot CEOs and CTOs, these companies get a lot of press. But there’s another important player in the space, one that’s quietly making a big impact: academia.
At the AltCar Expo and Conference in Riverside last month, Matthew Barth, Director, CE-Cert (Center for Environmental Research and Technology) at UC Riverside, discussed how his department works to develop and implement mobility solutions.
Students in the program are currently working on a traffic program with Riverside city officials. (Photo: Getty Images)
After the panel, I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Barth to drill down further into how his department works with the industry.
“We do a lot of vehicle testing, vehicle performance evaluations, but then think about new innovative ways of implementing those things,” he explained.
Students advancing transportation solutions
But, guess who’s developing some of those advancements: the students. Mainly, Barth teaches them about how the department works and the different ways it can contribute. In addition, he also supervises a lot of student projects that focus on developing or optimizing vehicle technology.
These student projects aren’t the type you’d find in a high-school science fair either. They are developments that will improve transportation and some get adopted by the industry. Barth cites an example of a couple ideas that turned into patents now used by the car-sharing industry, in this case mostly in Asia and Japan.
Another challenge facing the industry is finding the best route for vehicles to get from point A to point B. The usual considerations are shortest distance or shortest time. But, Barth noted there are other routing issues to be addressed, such as trucks coming from the port cutting through residential neighborhoods and spewing emissions.
“One thing that we’re introducing are these routes for trucks that minimize the exposure of emissions to the local community,” Barth said. “So you can have trucks near the ports that are cutting through the neighborhoods.
Students at the UC Riverside Center for Environmental Research and Technology are working on a truck routing system that doesn’t cut through residential neighborhoods. (Photo: Getty Images)
Educating the next generation
As it’s located in Riverside, the university also works closely with the city with some joint projects together. What this means is students get to do actual work and interact with city employees. Currently, they are collaborating on a traffic program.
“Students get to talk with the traffic engineers and find out what they’re doing, but then working together to implement a particular program,” Barth said.
Part of CE-CERT’s mission is to do public outreach with kids K-12. (Photo: Getty Images)
In addition to training students, teaching kids is also on the agenda.
“Part of our mission at the university is not just to train students but also to have public outreach,” Barth said. “K-12 is a big thing, getting the high school students in and teaching them a certain amount, too.
In terms of getting autonomous cars on the road, Barth thinks the technology is already there, “it’s not like we have to make another technological leap. “ He thinks the biggest challenge is social acceptance, getting people to trust handing over driving control to the machines.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Academic institutions provide valuable contributions to advancing green transportation technology. It’s here where the future leaders of the industry learn. Working from grant money and not fueled by profit, academia also offers an economical way for industry to benefit from its knowledge and talent pool.